Skip Navigation and Jump to Page Content    The Library of Congress >> American Folklife Center  
Veterans History Project (Library of Congress) ABOUT  
SEARCH/BROWSE  
HELP  
COPYRIGHT  
Home » Text Transcript

Interview with Jack Lee Hodges [n.d.]

Rebecca Blair:

Today is (inaudible), at the VFW, Columbus, Georgia. I am Becky Blair doing the interview. Sue Wolford is doing the camera work. Sheila Burkes is doing part of our paperwork. And the interview is with Jack Hodges. Okay. And were you drafted or did you enlist?

Jack Lee Hodges:

I enlisted.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. And where were you living at the time?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Mount Clemens, Michigan.

Rebecca Blair:

Why did you join?

Jack Lee Hodges:

My lottery number was number 3. I knew with number 3, you had no choice of where you were going.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Why did you pick the Army? Why did you pick it?

Jack Lee Hodges:

My dad was in the military and he was in the Army.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you recall your first days in service?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes, I do.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Can you tell me what it was like and about your boot camp or your training?

Jack Lee Hodges:

I was at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and it was like a total culture shock. You went from pay day with $89 in your hand, by the time that you got to the end of the line, you had $50 to buy what you needed for the month. And it was just -- I'm not used to people just constantly yelling at you, constantly motivating you to move to move to move, and you never had a chance to stand to take a breath.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you remember any of your instructors?

Jack Lee Hodges:

By name? Not by name. But I remember E-7 we had as one of the drill sergeants, he happened to be our recon drill sergeant in Vietnam. We had the same there.

Rebecca Blair:

How did you get through those -- that first boot camp period? How was it?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Not too bad. I had a couple of friends join with me. We were in the buddy program, so it kind of helped a lot.

Rebecca Blair:

Sounds good. And you were with the -- you went in, you served in Vietnam, is that correct?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes, I did.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Where exactly did you go?

Jack Lee Hodges:

In Vietnam? In Vietnam?

Rebecca Blair:

Yes.

Jack Lee Hodges:

Phu Bai, 1st Air Force Division, fire base rifle, fire base pistol, fire base T. Hawk.

Rebecca Blair:

Wow. Do you remember arriving and what it was like?

Jack Lee Hodges:

We were told when the plane first landed that a while back, a man stood at the door and got shot. So we were told do not get up and run for the door real fast, make sure it opens up and make sure it's clear. It was very scary. And you got your orientation and then go into my unit.

Rebecca Blair:

What was your job assignment?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Combat medic. I worked in a six-man recon team.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you see much combat?

Jack Lee Hodges:

My job was to find the enemy, report it, and run like the dickens. But I saw some.

Rebecca Blair:

Were there many casualties in your unit?

Jack Lee Hodges:

My team, we had one the whole time I was there. But the units I worked with, with our team, there was a few.

Rebecca Blair:

Can you tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences?

Jack Lee Hodges:

In the military?

Rebecca Blair:

Yes.

Jack Lee Hodges:

I think my most memorable experience was in Alaska. To me it's the best kept secret in the United States Army because it's beautiful snow up there. No matter how cold you've been in Georgia, Alaska at 30 below zero felt warmer than Georgia does in the wintertime. And it's like a different atmosphere. Everybody has to take care of each other because it's so cold. You see somebody walking along the side of the street and you just stop and pick him up. It's a different comaraderie between even civilians and the military totally, how they got along. And I've never seen that. I mean, how nice the south was, compared to Alaska, the south is not nice at all.

Rebecca Blair:

Were you awarded any medals or citations?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes, I have a combat medical badge, support one, got a bronze star, good conduct medal of course. A few different odds and ends I just don't remember because they weren't all that important to me. All I can -- most important was the combat medical badge, because there's not that many from Vietnam, like today.

Rebecca Blair:

How did you get that combat medical badge?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Serving 30 days in combat, the first firefight, which I had after I was there a week and a half.

Rebecca Blair:

During this time how did you stay in touch with your family?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Through letters.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you have plenty of supplies, plenty of food?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes. Always.

Rebecca Blair:

Were you under a lot of pressure, a lot of stress?

Jack Lee Hodges:

I'd say definitely. Because there's only six of you out there and you don't know what you're going to run into. And you may run into something you can't get out of, and that has happened a couple of times we got kind of pinned in.

Rebecca Blair:

Was there anything special that you did for good luck?

Jack Lee Hodges:

I prayed to the Lord every morning and I believe in dreams.

Rebecca Blair:

How did -- how did most of the people entertain themselves?

Jack Lee Hodges:

You went in the rear, they got drunk, most of them did. In fact, it's kind of funny, my six-man recon team was all from the same area. We had the same hangouts in the Detroit, Mount Clemens area, but none of us knew each other. And we didn't meet until we went to Vietnam. Every time I go home, I go back and still see them.

Rebecca Blair:

Where did you go on leave? Did you get leave while you were over there?

Jack Lee Hodges:

I went to Kon Pai, Taiwan.

Rebecca Blair:

Where did you travel while you were in service?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Germany, Alaska, Fort Leonard Wood. I went to basically Fort Knox and Fort Benning basically.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you recall any particularly humorous or unusual events?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Humorous? Oh, wow. It's hard to say. You know, unusual events, I mean, to me the military no matter where you went, it was like you were in a different Army because you had the Army regulations and then you had the local command regulations. I developed -- The humorous thing that ever happened, I was in a unit in Germany and they had a policy that in uniform you cannot wear sunglasses. I went out the gate in my van and the gate sergeant major stops me. He takes my sunglasses from me. I drive out the gate and I have a wreck. The (inaudible) asked me where my sunglasses was. I told him my sergeant major took them from me. It cost my brigade sergeant major 10,000 marks because he took my sunglasses. Now I drove into the light and couldn't see.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you remember any pranks that you pulled, that you or your fellow men pulled on each other?

Jack Lee Hodges:

I was called the April Fools joker because I was pretty good. And I'm going to civil service on this one here because I worked at Fort Benning civil service for a few years. On April Fools one night, one day I had one guy walk in and I said, John, at 10:00 you've got to go to CID. They've got you on film taking company equipment out the gate. He walks out going down the hall trying to figure out what it was. I know these guys from two years ago. Other guy walks in. Oh, you know what, John, at 10:30 you've got to go to CID. They're watching your truck taking some chlorine out of the plant and they've got it on film and you've got to report to CID. This is 7:30 in the morning. They walked up and down the hallway. Ten minutes to 10, they walked in, Mr. Hodges, you ready to go? Hey, guys, what's today's date? April Fools.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you think of your fellow soldiers or the officers very often?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes, I do.

Rebecca Blair:

Are some of those that you keep -- you stay in touch with them? Do you have a --

Jack Lee Hodges:

My six-man team, we stay in touch. We're throughout the same area. I don't go back to Detroit that often, but when I do go back, I call one person up because he owns a bar and he calls everybody else to meet at his bar. And he was called Big Dud.

Rebecca Blair:

Big what? Dud?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Big Dud. Big D for dud. He lost his left leg and his right foot. The reason he got the name Big Dud, we're doing a stream crossing. Everybody is putting their rucksack on a hook and pushing it across. And we go to put the D ring on it as it's going kind of fast. No, I've got the rucksack on my back. He took off and was pulled out of the water, was almost drowning. So Big Dud, Big D.

Rebecca Blair:

Do you recall the day that your service ended when you retired?

Jack Lee Hodges:

The day after I can. The day after I got up like I was going to go to PT and everything, the day was PT, my uniform and everything, looked at my watch, this is nice, walked outside, took all my uniforms, put them in a barrel, poured some gas on them and lit them.

Rebecca Blair:

So that kind of answers what you did the day and the weeks after you got out.

Jack Lee Hodges:

That very same day I went to work, I was on terminal leave for 45 days and I was already working someplace else. So it was like, I don't need them no more. They recall me, they have to find me more uniforms, I'm just going to burn them. I don't care.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you go back to school after you got out of service?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes, I did.

Rebecca Blair:

Did you go into the GI bill?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Yes, I did. I became a water treatment plant operator and then I became a foreman at Fort Benning.

Rebecca Blair:

Okay. Do you belong to any other veterans organizations other than the VFW?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Not veterans organizations, no.

Rebecca Blair:

What did -- You were a water treatment plant manager, is that correct?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Foreman.

Rebecca Blair:

Foreman, okay. And did your military experience influence your thinking about war or about the military in general?

Jack Lee Hodges:

About the military in general, yeah. I mean, the only way I can put it is if you keep the politicians out of the war and let the generals do their job, then you're going to win the war. We lost Vietnam because the politicians got into it. And I still hurt -- I'm glad to see the soldiers coming back from Iraq getting pats on the backs and cheers. The Vietnam veterans still haven't gotten that and that hurts. I mean, I remember first coming back from Vietnam in the airport in Detroit, Michigan, a little lady walks up to me, Did you kill babies in Vietnam? I looked at her and I said, I'll tell you what I said, I said, No, I ate the stupid things. I ate babies. I couldn't believe it. You know, just because a man is in a classy uniform, I'm a baby killer.

Rebecca Blair:

How did your service and your experiences there in the service affect your life?

Jack Lee Hodges:

It made me for a long time hard to show feelings. I held them in for a long time. After I retired, the feelings go out. And to show someone I care about them was really hard to do. I was close to losing it. They might lose me.

Rebecca Blair:

Is there anything you'd like to add to this interview that we haven't covered?

Jack Lee Hodges:

Not that I can think of.

Rebecca Blair:

I want to thank you so much for your service to your country and for taking the time to do this interview for us.

Jack Lee Hodges:

You're welcome. Thank you.

Rebecca Blair:

Thanks a lot.

Jack Lee Hodges:

Thank you.

Rebecca Blair:

Didn't hurt at all.

Jack Lee Hodges:

No. [Interview concluded]

 
Home » Text Transcript
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
  Legal | External Link Disclaimer Need Help?   
Contact Us